“To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by men from the cruelty of man. But he who has not qualified himself for such service is unable to afford to it any protection. I must go through more self-purification and sacrifice, before I can hope to save these lambs from this unholy sacrifice.” – M. K. Gandhi
Last summer I had Japan and China on my mind, but I also had an aching feeling that something was missing in my life. What would I do when I got back? I had already finalized my second trip to Asia, but I knew I didn’t want to come back to mock debates and selling parking passes to park visitors. Don’t get me wrong, I would be completely content with the life I had. I loved speech and debate. I also absolutely loved working for the Regional Parks of Sonoma County, and I would feel fulfilled pursuing a career in Parks and Recreation. However, my intuition was telling me that my next move was going to make a huge mark on what my future would look like. When I envisioned my future, I had to ask myself what it was that I wanted to get out of my life. But the answer I got back wasn’t what I was going to get out of life. What could I do in my life that would make this world just a little bit better for everyone that would also make me happy? Yes I do believe you can have both. 😉
The answer to this question required a boatload of research (no pun intended), many sleepless nights of thinking thinking and more thinking, as well as multiple trips to the recruiting station. For me there was a lot at stake. So without much further ado, I give to you my top two incentives that lured me into the Navy:
Travel, travel, travel! Travel seems like it’s taking over social media these days, or maybe it’s just curated advertisements just for me because I’m so on board! If you check out my personal Instagram account you’ll see just about everything travel and nature. I…am…obsessed. For good reason too! Traveling has expanded my point of view outside of the California bubble. For instance, learning about Communism in school gives you very important information, but a textbook understanding of a concept can only ever be just that, theoretical understanding. Actually traveling throughout a Communist country gives you a very deep and literal understanding of the effects that Communism has on a country. Then there is the emotional benefit of traveling to a foreign place.
In an article by The Harvard Business Review, author Todd B. Kashdan writes, “By spending time in unfamiliar towns, cities, or countries, you become tolerant and even accepting of your own discomfort and more confident in your ability to navigate ambiguous situations.”, which is a benefit I recognized just after my first trip abroad to Japan and China.
From menial tasks like doing my laundry to navigating my way through the streets of San Francisco, I felt that if I could get around the Tokyo metro on my own I could most certainly do just about anything else! There are a lot more benefits to traveling, but I’ll save that for another time. What most people can agree on is that traveling is amazing in so many ways, and that is why every recruiter will ask you if you like to travel. Most likely you’ll say yes. I know I did. But what your recruiter might not get around to telling you are two ways in which the military can help you reach your travel goals where civilian jobs fail.
- All military personnel are entitled to 30 days paid leave per year. Yes I said paid. But wait, it gets better. Your vacation days can be rolled over to the following fiscal year. This means you could, in theory, take a two-month long vacation. For a soul full of wanderlust like mine, that’s the best thing I could ask for. Obviously there are guidelines within that. For instance, you can’t take vacation in the middle of training, and you can’t accrue more than 60 vacation days, that would just be ridiculous. But in a world where, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “73% of all civilian workers [have] access to paid vacations” and of those workers the number of days of paid vacation is often dependent upon your number of years served at an establishment, I’ll take 30-60 days paid vacation regardless of my rank please!
- Navy ships travel to ports all over the world. I’m not going to delude myself in thinking that I have an absolute guarantee in traveling the world for free via the military. However, with Navy ports internationally located in countries like Italy, Japan, Spain, and South Korea, not to mention bases in some of the best cities in the U.S. (San Diego, Pensacola, and Pearl Harbor to name a few), I’ll take my chances.
The economic benefits of the military are a catalyst to female empowerment. Active duty military are provided all their basic necessities such as housing and food. There are also many different programs for active duty and veteran members to have their education paid for. Plus there are a variety of financial programs such as home loans that are exclusive to active duty military and veterans. Yet with all these economic benefits that are especially crucial in America today, these resources are largely untapped by women. According to the Department of Defense, “[women] makeup only 14% of active duty military enlisted members” of which women makeup only 15% of enlisted members in the Navy.
Women now have access to just about every job in the military, so why do so few women enlist? Perhaps it is because, like myself, women just don’t know the military is an option for them. As a society I think it is very taboo for women to join the military and we tend to limit women in terms of what they are capable of. Yet if you give women the opportunity, they will show you that women can do anything a man can do, and can sometimes do it better.
In a publication by the Strategic Studies Institute, Haring states, “In a 2005 study of female combatants, Israeli commanders reported women ‘exhibit superior skills’ in (1) discipline and motivation, (2) maintaining alertness, (3) shooting, (4) managing tasks and organization, and (5) displaying knowledge and professionalism in weapons use.”
This shows that when given an opportunity to perform, women will go above and beyond what is expected of them. Yet, if you’re like myself, perhaps you didn’t grow up hearing you could do anything you set your mind to. Perhaps you didn’t grow up being told you could be anything you wanted. If you’re like myself, you were steered in a direction that was stereotypically ‘feminine’. Stereotypically ‘feminine’ roles don’t often provide access to acquire resources easily. Yet every woman should be going after roles that can provide them economic prosperity because there is something uniquely special about it. What is that something special you say? It’s a powerful word that we as Americans like to use often.
What I find crucial as an individual, and especially as a woman, is getting myself to a place where I can be completely independent. By that I mean owning my own house or apartment, paying my own bills, and not having to depend on anyone else for basic necessities. What I’m talking about is economic independence. I want this. No, I need this. Economic independence is the most literal form of freedom. With economic independence you can do anything you want and be whoever it is you want to be. This should be every woman’s goal because it gets you to a place in your life in which you never have to be desperate enough to rely on people who aren’t good for you. What I’m talking about is not being forced to keep dating an abusive person because they keep a roof over your head or food in your stomach. What I’m talking about is never being forced to borrow money, or be financially dependent in any way, from a parent or romantic partner who is a source of personal misery. What this means is you never again have to sacrifice your personal sanctity, your personal integrity, or give up the pursuit of your passions for anyone or any reason. When you gain economic independence, that is when you become an equal to men. That is freedom, and that is the true form of female empowerment. Therefore economic independence is my goal, and I know that if I utilize the benefits provided to me by the military, I will get there.
Traveling and female empowerment are two of my favorite things. These are the matters of my soul. These are the things that run through my mind every waking moment of every day and the Navy has provided me an outlet in which I can achieve both of these if I succeed. On July 2nd, I will be subjecting myself to two months of nonstop discomfort, but become a physically and mentally stronger individual at the end. What follows is over one year of studying at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey for the purpose of becoming fluent in a foreign language. To exude the words of Gandhi, every challenge I overcome, every skill I acquire, and every experience I gain are all getting me to a place in which I am qualified to provide service to others. I truly believe that empowerment is freedom, and freedom is a human right, but we live in a world in which people are greatly oppressed. My hope is to get myself to a point in which I can empower others, so that they can live a life of freedom, whatever that means to them. That is my motive for enlistment that means the most to me.